Professor Sturm Wins Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching

Professor Susan Sturm, the George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, is one of five professors from Columbia University to receive the 2007 Presidential Teaching Award. The award honors the best of Columbia’s faculty members for their influence on the development of their students, as well as their dedication outside the classroom to progress in education.

“Because of Professor Sturm’s outstanding achievements as a teacher, mentor, scholar, and leader in educational theory, I cannot think of a worthier recipient of this award,” wrote Dean David M. Schizer in a letter in support of Sturm’s nomination.

A leading voice on innovation in legal education, Sturm is regularly asked to speak at conferences on the topic. She teaches courses on employment discrimination, new forms of public problem-solving, conflict resolution, race and gender, public law remedies, and civil procedure. 

Sturm is also member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Diversity Initiatives at the University.

When the Law School learned of Sturm’s nomination for the 2007 award, an overwhelming expression of support came from students, who called both her upper-level seminars and large civil procedure class for 1Ls “life-changing.” They described Sturm as deeply invested in their personal and academic development and her classroom as a simultaneously challenging and supportive environment.

“[Sturm’s] ongoing mentoring and encouragement of students interested in pursuing social justice work is unparalleled,” wrote Caroline Bettinger-López ’03 in a letter of support. Ms. Bettinger-López took Sturm’s two-semester interdiscplinary research seminar, Theory and Practice of Workplace Equity, as a second-year law student. She is now a fellow at the Law School’s Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Institute.

Sturm’s courses use creative pedagogical methods, such as guest speakers from diverse backgrounds, student-facilitated discussions, fieldwork, one-on-one meetings, and an interdisciplinary approach to the law. A new seminar on Diversity and Innovation, for example, is co-taught with Columbia University Professor of Psychology Geraldine Downey and includes students of law, psychology, business, and social work on its class roster. 

 “In a discipline that has often been criticized for lagging in its teaching models,” wrote Dean Schizer, “Professor Sturm has devoted her career to opening the doors of law schools to hands-on learning.”        
One of 12 finalists out of 500 initial nominees from across the University, Sturm is the fourth Law School professor to receive the Presidential Teaching Award in the program’s 11-year history. Past recipients include Professors Gerard Lynch (1997), Robert Ferguson (1998), and Carol Sanger (1999).